Should the catcall, the go-to come-on of men you’d absolutely never consider dating, be put down humanely as a sick sexist relic? Or should women just loosen up and embrace ‘show us your t-ts’ as a primitive form of compliment? Opinion is divided on the topic. Weirdly, the divide appears mainly to be among women.
On the side of the “loosen up” brigade is New York Post writer Doree Lewak. In a peculiarly personal essay titled “Hey Ladies, Catcalls Are Flattering—Deal With It!” Lewak recently admitted she gets “that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling” whenever she walks past “a construction stronghold.” She later confides that the “wolf whistles that follow” send her “ego soaring.”
Lewak makes it clear that she doesn’t condone crude anatomical comments, but only enjoys PG-13 pleasantries such as “you’re hot.” She goes on to suggest that women who don’t enjoy similar attention are somehow robbing themselves of one of life’s great joys. “What’s so wrong about a “You are sexy!” comment from any observant man?” she asks, failing to recognize perhaps that she’s setting the bar pretty low for guys while asking women to high jump over their own expectations for a catcall-free existence.
Lewak was taken to task by many for depicting objectification as a major turn-on in her light essay and for nervily asking women to share her affection for validation via catcall. But nobody asked the obvious question: why are women being called on to justify catcalling and not men? It hardly seems fair that women have to endure the activity and then come up with a polite excuse for it too. How in the world are we ever going to further the conversation when the actual actors in the ongoing street drama that is catcalling remain silent (save for their ‘you’re hot’ comments, anyway). I’d really like a catcaller to consider the question of what’s wrong with hollering ‘you are sexy’ at a female jogger or COO and more importantly to consider what’s right about it.
Oddly enough, Playboy, which is hardly a bastion of enlightened discourse on gender battles, addresses this need. The magazine recently ran a pointed infographic entitled “Should You Catcall Her?” which walks men through the thinking (or not thinking) behind catcalling.
Created by writer and graphic designer Shea Strauss, the flowchart asks men to consider the implications of letting their inner dirty dog howl, or muzzling it in the name of civility (not to mention intelligence). The flowchart, which breaks down the process from first sight to first hoot, also offers a clever case for answering the question “Should I catcall her?” in the negative. My favourite point in the chart: “Seems perfectly content. Probably shouldn’t bother her.”
Welcome to the conversation, gentlemen. Looking forward to your input.